Reshaping the Lararium

When I moved back to Lisbon two years ago, I brought with me a set of home-made clay altars to use for offerings of incense and other small burnables. A total of six, they’re dedicated to Janus, Vesta, Minerva, Jupiter, Juno, and my Lares, understood as deceased family members. In front of them there’s usually a small dish and spoon and occasionally a candle. This is pretty much it! Very sober, very simple. Having to share an apartament with others, my room is the best if not the only place where I can safely keep small places for the Gods, which limits the numbers of things I can have. However, this post from Agricola’s Cultus Deorum Romanorum blog has led me to rethink this particular “sacred shelf” and, after some consideration and a few tours around several shops, I’ve come up with a set of ideas to reshape and improve both the outlook and the practice of piety in my improvised Lararium.

First, I’ll change the order of the altars, putting those of the Lares and Vesta at the centre and slightly more forward than the others, so as to outline family and home. I want to put something in the middle, behind those altars, perhaps a plant, but I’m not yet sure about that one. I should also get some basic candle holders for tea-lights and a small incense burner for the house genii, which will be place close to Vesta’s altar along with some coins as offerings. Another thing I’d like to have are wreaths to decorate the altars on particular monthly dates (Jupiter’s on the Ides, Juno’s and Janus’ on the Calends, the Lares’, Vesta’s, and Minerva’s on both those days and on the Nones, too). However, flower wreaths three times a month may prove to be expensive at the end of the year, so I’ve come up with another solution: beads’ wreaths! Both regular and leaf-like beads. And in different sets of colours for different deities: the regal red and golden for Jupiter, the virginal white and olive dark green for Minerva, the “in-between” grey and fresh green for Janus, the light-bringing gold and celestial blue for Juno, the virginal white and fiery orange for Vesta, and the light yellow of wax with the ever-lasting green for the Lares. Actual flower wreaths would be reserved for annual festivities such as Minerva’s Quinquatria.

Add this to the project of a portable aedicula to the Norse god Frey and the setting of a new shrine to a new deity (more on that this weekend), and it’s fair to say that this month of January has had its stock of new things. Appropriately.

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2 thoughts on “Reshaping the Lararium

  1. Salve!

    I guess I’m lucky. There is a flower shop near my train station where I can get small bunches of flowers for very little money. I also have some nice silk flowers that I can use and I recently bought a potted rosemary so I can always have sprigs of that. I think that you have the right idea; the point is to make it festive.

    • Well, for New Year I made three wreaths and the flowers and greenery cost me about 3 euros. For my Lararium here, I’d need four to six small wreaths, so assuming I could get the necessary material for the same price, I’d spend around 120 euros a year in flowers alone… plus the extra for major feriae. I prefer to invest half of that in more permanent decoration for monthly dates and, as you say, make things festive.

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